Voltaire 1759

Letters on “Candide:”
“I am [annoyed] that people attribute it to me”

Source: Oeuvres de Voltaire, volume 58, correspondence vol. 8. Edited by M. Beuchot. Paris, Chez Lefevre, 1832;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2012.

“Candide” was first published in Geneva is 1759 as a work translated from the German by Dr. Ralph, as Voltaire attempted to avoid problems with the censors. He denied his authorship even to friends...

To the Marquis de Thibouville
Chateau de Tournay, via Geneva,
March 15

I finally read, dear marquis, the “Candide” that you spoke to me about, and the more it made me laugh the more annoyed I am that people attribute it to me. What is more, whatever novel one might write it is difficult for the imagination to approach what has really happened over the past few years on this sad and ridiculous globe. Madame Denis and I have some interest in public misfortunes, in the persecutions inflicted on estimable philosophers, in everything that interests humankind. But when friends speak to us only of plays and novels perfectly unknown to us what do you want us to answer? She says that friendship must be nourished by confidence, that our friends’ letters should always teach us something. I am dead to the world and elixirs are needed to recall me to life. Your friendship is the best of all. The uncle and the niece are equally sensitive to your merit and will be forever tenderly attached to you.


To M. Vernes

I finally read “Candide.” One has to have lost one’s senses to attribute that foolishness to me. Thank God I have better occupations. If I could ever excuse the Inquisition I would pardon the Inquisitors of Portugal for having hung the raisonneur Pangloss for having supported optimism. In fact, that optimism visibly destroys the foundations of our holy religion. It leads to fatalism; it leads us to look upon man’s fall as a fable and God’s malediction pronounced on the earth as vain. This is the sentiment of all religious and educated persons: they look upon optimism as a frightful impiety.

As for me, I – who am more moderate – would forgive this optimism as long as those who support this system add that they believe that in accordance with his mercy God, in another life, will give us the good he deprives us of in this world in accordance with his justice. It is the eternity to come that produces optimism, and not the present moment.

You are too young to meditate upon this eternity, while I am approaching it.

I wish you well-being in this life and the other